Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Heather's Book Review: Romeo and Juliet: The War by Stan Lee, Terry Dougas, Max Work, and Skan Srisuwan

Comic adaptations of Shakespeare are hardly new, but in my experience, rarely are they well-done enough to be appreciated outside of a “Here, read this comic because you’re having trouble with the Shakespearean language in the play” context. Of the several that I’ve attempted, only a few have been books that I’ve reread for their entertainment value. Most of the others I haven’t been able to finish, and all of those left me with exasperated groans in my throat, just waiting to be unleashed when I came upon the next Shakespeare comic.

In fact, that is exactly what happened when I came upon this comic. When I first saw a thumbnail of Romeo and Juliet: The War, my reaction was *EXAGGERATED SIGH-GRUMBLE*, “Does the world really need another futuristic Romeo and Juliet ripoff?” The fact that it was Romeo and Juliet made it worse. Generally I hate stories that feature protagonists being both in love and stupid at the same time, which is what Romeo and Juliet is, at its heart. Oh, the original has all that iambic pentametered loveliness, too, but I can get that in every other Shakespearean work, many of which are far more interesting than this one.

Key to my exasperation with this book was the fact that I was looking at a thumbnail that was the size of, well, a thumbnail.

Then, one day, I came upon the actual cover in person, which sent me into fits of fangirlish glee:

This version of Shakespeare’s classic sets the familiar story in the far future, making both families consist of cybernetically- or genetically- enhanced supersoldiers, and then having them duke it out in a wondrous spread of futuristic glowing lights and shiny metal that makes the book look like a printed cousin of the Mass Effect games (which is not a bad thing because even the loading screens are fun to look at in Mass Effect.)

Romeo and Juliet: The War is not simply a slapdash adaptation of a classic made for SparkNotes purposes, either. (Not to hate on SparkNotes, by the way. The SparkNotes graphic novel version of Hamlet is one of my favorite Shakespeare-inspired comics.) It’s an impressively crafted work, and despite all the crazy technological changes, the basic story is still intact. I wouldn’t recommend reading in lieu of the original if you’re reading it for class, as you’ll end up answering questions like “Why were the Montagues and Capulets enemies?” with “Because they were such awesomely superpowered soldiers that they defeated everyone else in the world, leaving only themselves to fight!” (which, FYI, is not the Shakespearean reason). However, as a complement to the original text, it’s pretty good. Some changes are made to certain minor points in the plot, but—dare I say it?—these changes actually improve upon Shakespeare’s story, or at the very least make it more dramatic reading.

Basic accuracy is the least of this book’s good points, though. All of the other good points rest in its art. The art in this comic is not merely pleasant to look at. Everything about it is expertly accomplished, from the dynamic panel layout, to the characterful color design, to the wondrous and colossal scale of it all. The book makes frequent use of detailed full-page and multi-page spreads, and more than once I found myself stopping in the middle of reading simply to gawp at what was on the page before me. This is a graphic novel that comes very close to reaching the height of Capital A Art.

The only truly disappointing part of the book, for me, was the lack of an author or artist’s note in the back, as I was genuinely curious to know what happened to make this unexpected bit of awesomeness come about. The only extras included are some pieces of concept art, which are cool, but not as interesting as a look into the writer’s and artist’s minds would have been. I also had a problem with Romeo’s hair, which being the shaggy mop that seems to appear on every stylish teen boy’s head these days is going to look dated as soon as we’re out of the 2010s. But that’s just me being picky because there’s nothing else to complain about.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Lisa's Book Review: The Accidental Genius of Weasel High by Rick Detorie

After ingesting so much young adult supernatural romance and dystopian fiction, I wanted to snack on something light and humorous, so I thought I’d give this story a try. I’m glad I did, it made me laugh out loud. Part blog/journal and part comic book, the story is set up as an assignment for fourteen-year-old Larkin’s freshman English class. Larkin is a self-proclaimed “accidental genius,” and in his words, this means “somebody who possesses an awesome talent that happens to be totally useless.” In Larkin’s case, his useless talent is the ability to quote lines from every movie he’s ever seen. He is joined in this amusing pastime by Brooke, his best friend since third grade. However, Larkin is undergoing a bit of a crisis because Brooke has started dating his nemesis Dalton, the school bully. Larkin is also frustrated by his lack of height, his lack of a girlfriend, and his lack of funds to buy a camcorder in order to embark on an illustrious career as a movie director.

Obviously, Rick Detorie is in touch with his inner teen, and his characters are hilarious, especially Larkin’s angst-ridden older sister, his befuddled French teacher, and his eccentric pal Freddie who likes to wear bedroom slippers everywhere he goes. I’d recommend this book for tweens and younger teens, but also for anyone who loves classic movies and is in need of some healthy chuckles!